2015 Annual: Biggest people moves of 2015

annual2015 (1)Some of the most high-profile media and marketing figures won and lost jobs in 2015 in a year of unprecedented change in the industry. Nic Christensen recaps some of the big shifts that happened this year.

Media agencies

Henry Tajer has a lot to answer for when it comes to the people moves in 2015.

No part of the industry has been more impacted by changes in senior leadership than media agencyland, with much of the change being driven by Tajer’s promotion to global CEO of IPG Mediabrands and his decision to take an entourage of local talent with him. Tajer's Entourage

Tajer got the nod that he was moving permanently to New York in March and in the months that followed hired a number of key staff both within his own group but also making raids on rivals Starcom and GroupM.

Internally Tajer tapped key lieutenants such as Travis Johnson and Marc Lomas for global promotions in their respective fields of mobile and programmatic, but that was just the beginning.

To replace himself Tajer convinced Australia’s most powerful media buyer, GroupM investment director Danny Bass, to defect and take the local CEO’s role. The appointment surprised many in the market but there was even greater surprise when Mediabrands also subsequently hired Mediacom CEO Mark Pejic as its Melbourne chairman.

Tajer also poached key figures out of Starcom first hiring Di Richardson to be chief strategy officer for UM’s USA operations, this hire was quickly followed by the hire of John Sintras the chairman of Starcom Mediavest and a golfing buddy of Tajer’s. Sintras would follow him to New York for a global product role.

Baxter said UM did not see media agencies as their competitors.

Baxter the last member of Tajer’s entourage.

The final piece in puzzle was the hiring of UM CEO Mat Baxter. While it was long rumoured that Baxter wanted to move to New York in September it was finally confirmed he would global chief strategy & creative officer at IPG Mediabrands.

Outside of the ‘Tajer effect’ there has also been key changes and many of the other major media agencies.

In January James Greet departed Ikon Communications he would later resurface at Cummins & Partners where he would lead a major media push.

Outside of Bass and Pejic’s departures there was also major change at GroupM with almost every agency CEO position changing hands this year.


Steedman departed in June.

GroupM chairman John Steedman announced he was departing in April of this year. It would take the holding group many months to find a replacement with McDonalds CMO Mark Lollback eventually being named to the CEO’s role.

Among GroupM’s individual agencies there was also major change. MEC boss Peter Vogel got tapped for the regional MEC CEO’s role, replaced by James Hier. Mark McCraith replaced Jon Chadwick at Maxus while Sean Seamer was appointed to help right the ship at Mediacom in the wake of Pejic’s departure and the controversy around misreporting.

Elsewhere former senior IPG Mediabrands Melbourne Peter Butler was hired by Mediavest to run its local office in Melbourne, in a sign the group might put its hand up should Coles pitch next year.

Ian Perrin departed the CEO’s role ZenithOptimedia replaced by Nine exec Matt James, who had also been in contention for the Mediacom role. While independent The Media Store also saw a changing of the guard with Chris Mort departing, ahead of an expected pitch for Toyota in 2016.

Media owners

It was also a big year among the media owners. Three of the four big TV networks announced changes, while there were also big changes at News Corp, APN and Bauer.

Hamish McLennan 360

McLennan departed in July.

Among the TV networks Hamish McLennan was the first to pull the pin. The Ten boss departed ahead of a major investment by Foxtel, with CFO Paul Anderson being named his successor.

Rumours Nine boss David Gyngell was off circulated for months before he finally announced his departure in November of 2015. Gyngell was replaced by Nine director Hugh Marks.

While the race for who would replace ABC head honcho Mark Scott was closely watched the successor was announced in December as Google executive Michelle Guthrie who will take the reins in April next year.

Southern Cross Austereo CEO Grant Blackley.

Southern Cross Austereo CEO Grant Blackley.

Within the regional players there was also major change at Southern Cross Austereo with Rhys Holleran departing and former Ten CEO Grant Blackley being named as his successor. 

Over in print and magazines there were also big changes. Julian Clarke announced his plans for retirement as News Corp CEO after two years with the company announcing APN CEO Michael Miller would take the Australasian chairman’s role and CFO Peter Tonagh would take the CEO’s role. 

On the commercial side, News’s CMO Damian Eales was also promoted given a major promotion to managing director of metro and regional publishing for News Corp Australia.

Miller’s shift back to News meant major changes at APN as well with Ciaran Davis taking the CEO’s role while the group would poach Bauer sales boss Tony Kendall to be Davis’s replacement as CEO of the Australian Radio Network.

Finally there would be more changes at Bauer with CEO David Goodchild stepping down from the position to return to London, after a little over a year in the role.

Creative agencies 


DiLallo poached by M&C Saatchi.

In contrast to media the creative agency landscape was much quieter.

The biggest creative move of the year was back in April when Andy DiLallo was poached by M&C Saatchi to the newly-created role of chief creative officer. The move is rumoured to have had a very large payrise attached to it and mean that all eyes will be on M&C next year to see what work he produces, and whether the agency can retain its spot on the Optus roster.

The collapse of Droga5 Sydney also saw some important changes. The decline was heralded in part by the sudden departure of ECD Steve Coll who moved to the With Collective, at the time David Nobay signalled he would become more involved in the business.

Sadly it was not to be with Droga5 announcing Sydney would be closing its doors in September. Nobay however would soon reemerge agreeing to set up a new branch of Publicis Groupe’s creative shop Marcel in Australia.


While there was more than the usual turnover among CMOs the most significant were the changes at the top of both retail giants Woolworths and Coles.

Tony Phillips

Departed: Phillips

Woolworths chief marketer Tony Phillips announced he was leaving the company back with in May. The sudden departure came just 15 months into the role and came at time when it was being criticised for both its ‘Cheap, Cheap’ campaign and also for the social media backlash that occurred with Fresh in Our Memories.

Coles also changed the guard among its senior marketers, quietly shuffling its top marketers around, shifting former chief marketing officer Simon McDowell to a new role and replacing him with an executive with no hands on marketing experience George Dymond.

The moves were made quietly by the retailer in August as part of a plan to keep the the executives fresh and have not been promoted outside the business.

Lion CMO Matt Tapper was also promoted to a global role seeing him shift out of the local role. Tapper landed the newly created role of managing director for global markets for Lion beer, cider and wine.

Tara Lordsmith announced she was departing after a year in the role of Myer CMO while John Broome departed Kellogg’s but was soon appointed to lead Unilever’s marketing as its dual-CMOs departed.

Public relations

There were less major changes in the public relations space but among notable changes in the PR agency landscape were Bang PR poaching Porter Novelli boss Annalise Brown back in January.

One Green Bean picking up both Naked Communications CEO Carl Ratcliff and Mango Sydney’s managing director Claire Salvetti.

And finally Edelman which had a major shakeup this year in November CEO Tim Riches has resigned after just one year with the agency, while chief operating officer Matthew Gain is also departing the PR firm for a role with Amazon-owned Audible.


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